Field or Domestic, that is the question
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As I start blogging about my experiences, for personal reasons I do not wish to identify the site that I work at, and will have to change the names of some co-workers or just refer to them as “them”. As I get more involved and things change over time, I may include the site that I am at, but this is more about what it’s like to interpret the slave experience and the challenges that it presents….
At the site I work at, there are brick slave cabins that we use to interpret because the skilled/domestic slaves lived in them. We have an original on site, a reproduction, and a few ruins. But we also have a wood cabin that would hav represented the field slave. We don’t use that one at all.
The questions that have been bothering me is..exactly which slave should I be interpreting. With the current surroundings, it would be clear to interpret the life of a domestic slave, possibly the cook. The slave cabin is right across from the kitchen and it would have been the slave’s job to prepare the meals. However, the fields will need tending and we will plant some more cotton and possibly some corn and flax this year as well. All crops that the field slaves would have worked on. Who will do that work so that it is accurately portrayed?
The wardrobe of field slaves and domestic slaves vary, yet, I have one outfit to interpret in. As I research slave clothing, I am preparing myself to make two different outfits.
I want to give our visitors an experience that they will never forget, but in order for me to do that, I need to be as accurate as possible. I think it’s great that the other interpreters and I can have a discussion on which way the slaves should be interpreted on site but I know that in the end, I need to be the one to step up and propose the changes I wish to see, and have no problem making. Riding on the coat tails of an excellent and well known African American Interpreter, I feel a little bit of pressure to perform to “that” level. I can’t nor do I wish to be her, but I do want to build on the legacy that she has created. I feel that by her entrusting the program to me, I have a lot to live up to. No one said that it would be easy, but I think over time, those whom I work with and those who come to visit the site will be pleased with my vision and will cherish the experience that I give them.
I just wonder, as the visitor, what does one expect to learn about the slave experience?